Businesses and organizations sometimes develop mission statements: generally a succinct sentence or two intended to guide their operations by clearly stating their goals and beliefs. Formalising and solidifying their goals and beliefs, the mission statement reminds them and all working with them what informs all their actions.
Recently, Neil Gaiman—with a voice and delivery that could calm a rabid racoon trapped in a garbage can—gave an inspiring commencement speech at the vaguely-named University of the Arts. He described envisioning his goals as a mountain and his daily activities as either taking him toward or away from the mountain. A very simple image, but (perhaps embarrassingly) it still made an impression upon me.
Some people swear by creating vision boards, with images and words representing the life they want to have.
All fantastic. Brilliant. Keep doing that, says I!
But what about the importance of creating a philosophy of communication?
I have one for my personal life. My life communication philosophy is to be as honest—always—as possible without unnecessarily hurting someone’s feelings; to be vulnerable; to own my mistakes and inadequacies and atone for them; to be proactive in telling people things I might otherwise assume that they know; to not make assumptions or take things personally; to assume positive intent from others; to let others shine.
I don’t succeed at this all the time, but these are my values.
Creating a personal philosophy of communication felt natural to me as one of the first deliberate acts I took before starting my writing, editing, and marketing business. I want reach my goals as quickly as possible, offending and frustrating as few people as possible, including myself.
I first thought about who I wanted to be and with whom I wanted to work. I don’t want just any sort of clients. I want the best clients for me—clients who make me want to bend over backwards for them (which I can literally do, just ask!), giving them the best innovations and expertise I can muster: people who are fun to know and open to new ideas, people who are honest and generous, people who recognise good quality, people who are reliable, people with good senses of humour and with optimism about life!
If these are the types of people with whom I want to work, I have to be this. So, I next made a list of ways I could let these values inform my communication. I would:
-make specific deadlines for responding to emails, returning phone calls, sending cost estimates, and stick to them.
-do the best job I can do, even if I realise I underquoted someone, and just chalk it up to a learning experience for next time.
-make my greetings enthusiastic and friendly.
-be honest about what I feel I can do for my clients, what could be better done by someone else, and what probably cannot be done by anyone.
-speak in positives: emphasise what clients can do to be better, rather than what they are doing wrong.
-use inclusive, non-alienating language that acknowledges privilege and emphasises gender neutrality.
-assume the best from the people with whom I’m working.
-admit my mistakes and to go the extra mile when fixing them.
-be generous with my ideas and advice, even when not explicitly being paid for them.
-be humble and open to learning.
Imagine how creating philosophies of communication can help companies and all the employees who work for them! To have broad values and then have specific ways to implement them, would help all employees know how to handle ambiguous situations. Instead of trying to figure out how to handle each situation— instead of considering all the details and interpreting them, trying to figure out a client or business partner’s intent—businesses can have specific rules or standards to turn to. This streamlines the process of communication and creates a uniform output of positive energy from all the employees representing the business or company.
To have a clear vision of your niche markets—the people you most want as customers or clients—and to tailor your actions to these super-awesome ideal people who will make your daily grind of work extra-worthwhile, is a great way to figure out how you want to brand your business; what you want to sell; how you want to sell it; how much it’s going to cost you, your customer, and your community; and how you’re going to communicate all of this.
Because the beginning and end of all business is a communication, clearly.
Natasha Clark is the founder of Four Eyes Communications where she writes, edits, and solutionizes for small businesses. You can reach her at www.foureyescommunications.com or Twitter.com/natashafoureyes